We have approximately 17 games left in the regular season. The Spurs need to win out to tie the famous best record for a single season at 72-10. The Warriors need to go 13-4 the rest of the way just to tie it. The seedings in the Western conference are practically set outside of the final few spots and the Thunder/Clippers battle for third. The Eastern Conference number one seed is in a tight two game race and there are 5 games separating the 3rd seed with the 8th seed in the East. Basically, we are down to the final stretch for teams to start making their playoff push.
Three Positive Plays
The Golden State Warriors
I get it, they are in this column every time I get around to publishing one but we are witnessing history. Forget the fact that the Warriors at 18-0 against the top 5 teams in both the Eastern and Western conference. Let’s ignore the ankle sprain that Iguodala had the other night. Let’s forget that they are on pace to have the greatest regular season in NBA history. Let’s look at how the old guard understands the history that is taking place in Oakland. Here is a quote from Iverson on Curry: “It’s a whole different monster, as far as his handle and the way he shoots? Come on. You know you ain’t never seen nothing like this.” His peers within the league currently can not stop gushing from Kobe to Lebron, everyone is just witnessing history, something that has never been seen before. And because of this, they will keep making this column.
The Hornets are surging
Charlotte started the new year 1-8 and four games under .500. Injuries happened but adjustments were made. Since that losing streak, the Hornets have won 19 in 25 games, including 7-0 in March so far. This is a team that is determined on making the playoffs, not only make the playoffs but fighting for a first round home court advantage. Even more interesting, the Hornets are one of four teams to rank in top ten in both offensive and defensive efficiency. The other three teams? Warriors, Spurs and Cavs. The Hornets are 8 games over .500 for the first time since 2000-2001 season. The main reason for this surge in victories is the leader, Kemba Walker who is averaging 28.6 points per game in March to go along with 6.9 assists with 5 rebounds shooting 52,9% from the field and 49% from three. The Hornets are playing great basketball, especially with Al Jefferson coming off the bench and Marvin Williams having a comeback season. Do not sleep on the Hornets in the postseason, we all know what happens when Kemba gets into big time games.
Western Conference Playoffs
The bottom of the Western Conference playoff push is very exciting because no one is stepping up and running away with their seed. The Mavericks have lost 5 in a row, the Jazz are 3-7 in their last 10 games and the Rockets have been playing .500 ball all season long. There are three spots between four (or five, if you are including the Nuggets) fighting for those spots. With 17 games remaining, the Blazers sit 1.5 games ahead of the teams from Texas (Rockets and Mavs) and 4 games in front of the 9th seed Utah Jazz. If I was a betting man, I would say the Jazz are too many games to fight out and earn that 8th seed but with the way Dallas has been playing, anything is possible. I will be keeping an eye on this race as we wind down the last month of the season.
Two Negative Plays
Superstars who don’t make the playoffs
We all want to see superstars playing meaningful basketball come April/May, and hopefully June. Every season there are some terrific players missing the playoffs, some more than most. We want to see playoffs with Anthony Davis, John Wall, Carmelo Anthony, DeMarcus Cousins, Jimmy Butler, Gordon Hayward, etc. At what point is it the superstar’s fault or the GM/front office for how they constructed a team around a player. The name I want to focus on is Carmelo Anthony. In his six NBA seasons with the Knicks, he has only won one playoff series, in the Eastern Conference. We have almost a decade and a half of data to analyze here with Carmelo, yet his supporters continue to say things like “he’s hard to build around”, “he’s never had a good supporting cast” etc. These are all fine, especially justifying that he has only won 3 playoff series his entire career but when you play in the “bad” Eastern Conference, you have to find a way to MAKE the playoffs as well, something he has failed to do over the past couple of seasons. So my question to NBA fans, at what point is it the superstar’s fault or the team’s fault for not being able to achieve a playoff appearance each year you have a superstar in the Eastern Conference, where sometimes under .500 gets you the 8th spot.
Grizzlies in the playoffs
Sometimes you wish the commissioner would just do something unethical like remove an injury riddled team like the Grizzlies who will be without Gasol, Conley, Randolph and half of their bench when they get swept by the Clippers or Thunder in the first round. It’s a bummer that they suffered so many injuries and now we are all going to pay the price of a mediocre team in the playoffs. In a perfect world, they would bump the Blazers, Rockets and Mavericks up a spot and the Jazz would get a playoff appearance, the Grizzlies would get into the lottery and everything would be right with the world. This is unlikely with 17 games left and an 8.5 game lead over the 9th seed Utah Jazz. Just a random thought that I have been thinking about as we gear up for the playoffs. No one wants to see a lineup of Matt Barnes, Tony Allen, Ryan Hollins, Briante Weber, and JaMychal Green in the postseason. I will give you a few minutes to google some of those names but those are currently the Grizzlies starting five.
Wave the white flag, Karl-Anthony Towns locked in the Rookie of the Year award. He has been so good and consistent all season long. He is averaging a double-double and has an EFF rating of 23.2, second closest is Jahlil and Kristaps at 16.6 and 16 respectively.
Triple Double Watch
We haven’t had a Warrior triple double in almost a month. Something doesn’t feel right. Since that time, Russell Westbrook logged in three more triple doubles to tie Draymond for most this season at 11. Matt Barnes joined the list as the only new name to our running log.
News of the Week
Joey Crawford injured himself to cut his farewell tour early. He tried stealing Kobe’s thunder but is now done officiating NBA basketball. This is the best news to come especially after seeing this quote:
“It’s been such a tremendous run. I’ve screwed up a lot of games!” — Joey Crawford, just now on @br_radio (He was laughing.) via @HowardBeck